Do We Really Need To Know The Meaning?

By | October 17, 2017

I have to admit it is (almost) amusing to research material online and constantly discover how many different (and contradicting) facts there are available for any given subject. Of course it can also be a bit alarming if one is researching something where misinformation can cause harm (i.e. medicines or medical treatments etc.) Since those posting incorrect “facts” about the meanings behind certain popular songs are not going to cause much harm or change the earth’s rotation we’ll forgive these transgressions. However from a songwriter’s perspective the question needs to be asked: Do we really NEED to know the original “meaning” behind a song?

Jackson Browne’s “For a Dancer” first appeared on the 1974 platinum album Late For The Sky and has prompted online fans to debate whether the song was as a result of Browne’s wife’s suicide (which actually occurred after the song was released) or the death of his friend Adam (who inspired “Adam’s Song” on Jackson’s debut album in 1972) among other theories. This mixing of facts and fiction really does prompt the question: Why is it important to know the actual meaning behind a song? Especially when it is clear, given the online postings relating to this song, “For a Dancer” had different meanings to many different people regardless of what prompted Browne to write this song.

One fan wrote of their father (who they referred to as their “best friend”) passing away three years ago and related how difficult this loss has been. The father was a huge Jackson Browne fan. Recently the writer was with their dying uncle, left the bedside and Jackson Browne’s “For a Dancer” suddenly played. The uncle died several hours later and the fan believes their father “played that song” (from above) to help get over the uncle’s loss.

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